Learning To Code Was The Worst Decision I Made As An Entrepreneur

Aaron Dinin, PhD
3 min readNov 14, 2019

Non-technical entrepreneurs often struggle finding someone to work on the coding portion of their startup ideas. They spend months networking, relentlessly pitching their projects to potential tech co-founders in the hopes of finding a software engineer who can execute the product side of their vision.

As someone who majored in English in college, I spent a few years being one of those non-tech people, too. Then I discovered something: coding is easy to learn.

I don’t mean coding is easy. And I don’t mean learning how to code is quick. I mean that, thanks to Google, anyone can teach themselves to code. The knowledge is out there and accessible, you just have to go get it.

And that’s what I did. I taught myself to code. I went from (bad) poetry-writer to (decent) code-writer, eventually building technology platforms capable of handling tens-of-thousands of users in the time it takes you to finish reading this article.

And I went beyond that. I began advising every non-technical entrepreneur I met to teach themselves how to code. “It’s not nearly as hard as you think,” I’d assure them. “Spend a month taking an online coding bootcamp, and you’ll be able to prototype almost anything you want. Plus, you’ll be surprised by how much fun it is.”

At the time, I thought learning to code was the best decision I’d ever made as an entrepreneur. I would even tout it in pitch meetings to venture capitalists as one of my company’s competitive advantages. “We don’t have to spend lots of money on tech talent,” I’d proudly explain to them, “because I can build anything we need myself!”

Yes, I’d completely eliminated the need for finding a tech co-founder and was easily able to jump from idea to execution. I thought I’d found “Lean Startup” nirvana.

But I hadn’t. In retrospect, learning to code was the worst decision I ever made as an entrepreneur.

While I initially thought learning to code gave me an advantage over my competitors because I didn’t have to worry about finding tech talent to prototype early-stage concepts, I was actually handicapping myself.

Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com